Alumni Stories

List of 17 items.

  • Alex Walker '09

    Alex Walker Creates Authentic App
    Alex Walker is careful to say that his is not a social media app. In fact, it’s kind of the opposite. Spindle, the app that the ‘09 CA alum created with cofounder Amanda Lin, encourages you to “tell it like it is,” something Walker says is lacking in the world of today’s self-curated use of social media.

    Launched in early September, Spindle is a kind of journaling app where users create rapid-fire content using text, sound, and photos with the intention of keeping it private. “In fact, it’s a totally private experience with just a few ‘social’ features,” he says.

    Spindle works like this: Once content is created on the app, users can share that content almost as an afterthought by inviting friends to view it. It will then appear on that friend’s timeline, where they can either view the content and have it disappear, or save it permanently to their own timeline. While content can also be shared with friends, there are no “friending” options like on other platforms.

    The result? Walker anticipates “authenticity.” “This problem of curating your life on social media,” says Walker, “is just such a strange behavior and so antithetical to human nature. Humans get a lot out of being straightforward. It’s healthy.” Walker’s insight is informed from his studies in Engineering Product Design at Stanford, where he also took classes in psychology.

    Already the app, which is available for download in the iOS App Store, is hitting a nerve with users. It has been written about in tech blogs like Social Media Knowledge as well as Tech Crunch, where the article posted was shared 1,736 times.

    Spindle is particularly gaining a following among high school students. Walker infers its popularity with the demographic is due to the fact that it creates a platform for authentic self-expression.

    It was his own sort of self-expression that got him into coding in the first place. After graduating from Stanford, Walker worked as a mechanical engineer on a hardware startup, where he had an idea to improve the user experience of the product. “So I learned how to code,” he says. “Since then it was sort of ‘off to the races.’”

    For Walker, it’s the immediate user response that makes coding appealing. “I love that you can get feedback from users right away and start implementing whatever you see from data in order to improve the experience.”

    Other draws to coding include the fact that it allows him to incorporate multiple disciplines into the build — disciplines like art, engineering, programming and even psychology.

    “One of the things I remember most about my time at Colorado Academy was that interdisciplinary studies were actually encouraged. It continues to hit home for me that it’s ok to pursue a lot of different things at once. Without that confidence, I don’t think I would be doing what I’m doing today.”

    The result? An app that touches on a need Walker sees missing on current social media.

    “I think people really crave authenticity. Products need to be built on some understanding of human psychology; on something that targets a nerve. Products that do that well have a great chance of succeeding.”
  • Amy Livingston '93

    Amy Livingston Works to Shine a Light on Safe Childbirth
    Every day, 800 women die due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth. Every year, more than 1 million babies die the day they are born. The majority of these deaths are preventable. That’s where Global Health Foundation, the organization Amy Livingston founded, comes in.“Pregnancy and childbirth are extremely vulnerable experiences for mother and baby,” says the ‘93 CA alum. “Particularly when a laboring mother walks miles at night only to arrive at a clinic with no power, or to a clinic that lacks essential medications and supplies.”

    Amy is the Executive Director of Global Health Foundation (GHF), a non-profit organization that partners with in-country community organizations and designers of innovative solutions to improve the health of those in un der-resourced communities around the world.

    GHF has built successful maternal and newborn health partnerships in Tanzania, Uganda, Sierra Leone and Liberia, and works to prevent unintended pregnancy in Colorado.
    Amy, along with four colleagues, founded GHF in 2012 and launched its Maternal and Newborn Health program in 2014. In just three years, those partnerships have resulted in incredible returns.

    To date, GHF and its solar partner, We Care Solar, has provided reliable light in 58 delivery rooms for nighttime births in Tanzania through installations of the “Solar Suitcase,” a complete solar electric system. GHF has equipped five hospital wards in Kampala, Uganda with Embrace infant warmers — training nearly 500 mothers, caregivers and healthcare workers to identify and treat newborn hypothermia — and supported more than 700 babies at risk for, or experiencing hypothermia. GHF’s $25,000 matching grant to Partners In Health for its Ebola Response and Rebuilding program in Sierra Leone and Liberia resulted in raising an additional $125,000 in contributions.

    Amy’s altruism didn’t spring up overnight. Instead, she says it was nurtured by her family and throughout her time at Colorado Academy. “Many of the experiences I had at CA through community service and other outreach programs were the foundation for my interest in working with vulnerable populations in under-resourced communities,” she says.

    Later, while completing a Master’s in International Development and Global Health Affairs at the University of Denver, she worked with a variety of organizations from the South African Red Cross in Cape Town to Partners In Health in Boston, and the Colorado Center for AIDS Research in Denver. “These experiences provided me with the skills and experience to launch the Global Health Foundation,” she says.

    In 2016, GHF will expand its support of the Solar Suitcase program to bring light into an additional 70 rural health clinics in Tanzania. “Health providers live in fear of nighttime deliveries, knowing they may not be able to treat complications or locate necessary supplies, medications and equipment in darkness,” she says. “Step one is turning on the lights. Then we look at additional interventions such as training healthcare workers in newborn resuscitation and transporting women in labor.”

    For more information on the Global Health Foundation, visit www.globalhealthfdn.org or contact Amy directly at amy@globalhealthfdn.org.


  • Nils Halverson '85

    Halverson Studies “Relic Radiation”
    Dr. Nils Halverson is an explorer, though his type of exploration doesn’t always require physical travel. Instead, he travels backward in time, building and observing with telescopes that can see nearly 14 billion years into the past.

    “I study the Cosmic Microwave Background,” he says, “which is leftover heat from the Big Bang.” Halverson, an ‘85 CA alum, received his Ph.D. in Applied Physics from the California Institute of Technology, later pursuing postdoctoral research at the University of California, Berkeley.

    Today, as an Associate Professor in the Astrophysical & Planetary Sciences and Physics departments at the University of Colorado- Boulder he studies the Cosmic Microwave Background, or CMB. Sometimes referred to as “relic radiation,” CMB is the light generated when the universe was in its infancy.

    Halverson first became interested in Physics when he was young, developing a deep curiosity of how things work at a fundamental level. He credits teachers like former Physics instructor Pat Hogan, who taught at Colorado Academy from 1978 to 2012, for nurturing his curiosity. Today, that curiosity translates into observing the CMB, where he looks for subtle variations in temperature and polarization in order to inform scientists on what conditions were like when the Universe first began.

    Currently, Halverson is working with two telescopes — the South Pole telescope in Antarctica and the POLARBEAR telescope in northern Chile — testing the theory of Inflation, which hypothesizes that the universe expanded rapidly when it was just a fraction of a second old. Scientists believe that the universe is still expanding, but at a slower rate. In addition, because the CMB is a distant source of light, it can be used as a tool to probe the more recent history of the universe. “Using CMB as a backlight, we can actually see how it was influenced by intervening matter, and then test theories of how large scale structures formed.”

    Already, the CMB has proven to be a rich tool for learning about the universe; for example, observations of the CMB have shown that the universe is spatially flat. Helping to confirm that prediction is one project that Halverson says is the most fascinating of his career.

    During grad school he measured the CMB temperature fluctuations with DASI, a telescope located in the South Pole. At the time, theorists had strongly predicted that the temperature fluctuations would be greatest at one-degree angle scales, which if true, would demonstrate that the universe is flat. A number of experiments including DASI found the degree-scale peak, confirming the theoretical prediction.

    “No one had seen those,” says Halverson. “We saw a second bump also predicted. It was a profound confirmation of the power of science. It’s profound that we as a species have a very good understanding of how the universe developed from the very first few seconds.”
  • Mark Hubbard '07

    The Big Time: A Life on the Verge of Change
    Asked in mid-September how his life was going to change in October, Mark Hubbard '07 replied: “Not too much.”

    Let’s unpack that for just a second. Hubbard, 25, was a star golfer and basketball player at CA who went on to focus on golf at San Jose State University. He rose, quickly, through the PGA’s mettle-making farm system, placing third in the PGA Tour Canada and 18th in the Web.com Tour. That got him into the PGA Tour which launches in October 2014 and concludes in October 2015, with stops from California to Korea.

    The PGA Tour. The big time. This is a young man who is becoming a prominent athlete -- and has the potential to become a household name -- before our eyes. And nothing much is changing?

    “I think people get caught in a trap: ‘OK, I got my PGA Tour Card, I made it’,” Hubbard explains. Not him.

    “There’s still a lot of work to be done. I’ve got a long way to go to reach some of my ultimate goals. There are so many players, you can never let your guard down, you have to keep playing well. It’ll definitely be nice to be playing against the best in the world and be playing for more money and get the TV coverage and the crowds and all that, but in terms of golf, nothing changes.”

    Hubbard credits the PGA’s “mini-tour” system for helping him understand that for him, unlike for many road warriors, near-constant travel is not a draining experience. “Life on the road definitely suits me,” he says. “It’s not for everybody, that’s for sure. I do know a lot of people who had a lot of talent in golf or other sports, but being on the road that long wasn’t for them. It takes a certain personality.”

    Hubbard heaps praise upon CA golf coach Beth Folsom, whose program, he says, constantly grows in quality and popularity. But it may also be true that his family history helped create in him an appreciation for both team and individual sports and, ultimately, a golfer’s temperament. His parents each were married more than once, giving him lots of half-siblings who now range in age from 9 to 38. That’s the team player in him.

    However, “I was the only child from my parents’ marriage, so for most of my childhood I was an only child. My mom and I traveled a lot, so without knowing it, she groomed me for this lifestyle. I enjoy seeing different places, eating different food. I really don’t mind sleeping in hotels and living out of a suitcase. It doesn’t seem like you’re alone because you’re always meeting people. I’m on the road 35 weeks of the year, and that’s just playing. There’s other weeks that I’m traveling to see my coach, or on vacation.”

    If Hubbard were a little taller (he’s 6 feet) the team-oriented side of his dual nature might have won out. All through CA, he entertained the notion that he could be either a pro basketball player or a pro golfer, and he began his college search looking for schools where he could continue pursuing both. Coming to terms with the unlikelihood of making it to the NBA and focusing exclusively on golf was, he says, “my first grown-up decision.”

    Hubbard still called San Jose home as of this writing, but was in the process of moving to Houston to be near one of his coaches, Kevin Kirk, and also because Texas offers an instructive variety of turf and weather.

    “From a golf perspective, Texas is great. You see every kind of condition you’ll see anywhere in the world: really hot, humid days, rain, wind, all kinds of grass. It prepares you for everything you’re going to see out on the Tour. I’m going to miss California, I’m not gonna’ lie. I love it there. But it’s not ideal for what I’m going to do.”

    None of which means Hubbard has stopped boosting the Centennial State, and a particular prep school he’s quite fond of. “There’s not a lot of professional golfers who were born in Colorado, so I definitely feel very blessed to have this opportunity to put Colorado and CA on the map.” CA’s academic counseling is so renowned, Hubbard says, that people may not know that the coaching staff are equally talented at guiding students to colleges where they'll excel. As word gets out, he believes, more and more successful athletes will be CA graduates.

    Whether bound for the big leagues or not, any student or professional could learn a lot from Mark Hubbard’s outlook on life.

    “I feel like I play my best golf when I’m concentrating on getting better,” he says. “If you just focus on that, everything else will fall into place.”
  • Leah Berger Jensen '99

    CA Alumna Discovers Her Passion and a City’s Need
    “I knew where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do, I just wasn’t sure how I would get there,” says CA alumna Leah Berger Jensen (‘CA 99).

    After graduating from Colorado Academy and then from Connecticut College with a dual degree in Cultural Anthropology and Gender and Women Studies, Berger Jensen considered for her medical training both a small Ivy League college and a Big 12 state university. Ultimately, she decided on the mid-sized private school of Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. She received her Master of Public Health degree from Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in 2004 with a focus in International Health and Development.

    “I had all intentions of coming here and then going abroad,” says Berger Jensen. And with a goal of working with traditionally marginalized populations, she knew what that looked like. She had worked in Ghana, Kenya, and Thailand; she had applied for fellowships from the Centers for Disease Control, and she was anxious to get into the fields of reproductive health or preventing HIV.

    Then, “I realized that working in those parts of the world, I was always going to be an outsider.” Berger Jensen decided, “I was going to be much more effective here than anywhere else – right here in my own backyard.” Already, she knew the need was there. At the time in 2005, parts of New Orleans had staggering statistics for life expectancy, education, literacy, access to health care. This is echoed by Berger Jensen talking about where her city ranks on the lists that define equity, “New Orleans has historically been at the bottom of the best and the top of the worst”.

    Berger Jensen watched as that need became critically acute in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. She describes starting a health clinic on the sidewalk after the storm, with nothing more than a cooler, to administer tetanus shots. “We had doctors and residents outside on park benches talking face-to-face with patients. There were no exam rooms, no charts, no medical history, no computers. In many ways, this back-to- approach trained better physicians.”

    That effort gave way to the Tulane Community Health Center at Covenant House, of which Berger Jensen was the first full time employee. She managed the clinic, raised her own funding, and worked to build capacity in the public health safety net of New Orleans. Her efforts helped to create the Tulane University School of Medicine’s Office of Community Affairs and Health Policy.

    “I can’t pinpoint the moment that I knew I wanted to work in healthcare,” says Berger Jensen. I think Colorado Academy’s holistic approach was incredibly important to how I view the world and the community. The work that I do day to day is all about community and that is a value that has been instilled within me from the very beginning and because of my time at CA.

    What I learned from CA was not just rigor. Yes, academics were incredibly important, but what I remember were requirements for sports and the arts.” She choreographed CA’s musicals, took part in sports, loved Interim, and became engaged in the community. “There was an equity and fairness and humanity in all of this. At the end of the day, that’s what CA did a tremendous job of.”

    Berger Jensen says the closeness of the CA community is something she has also found in New Orleans. “There is something special to that kind of closeness and community. When you walk on the CA campus, you feel something different. In the work that I do today, trust is critical. The groundwork and framework for my approach started at Colorado Academy.”

    After working seven years at the School of Medicine, Berger Jensen wanted to broaden her reach. Just last year in 2013, she hung out her own shingle in New Orleans for The Berger Group, a consulting company designed to help communities improve health outcomes. Among her clients, the Veterans Administration in New Orleans, charter schools, and community health centers including Tulane’s community health program that is now the newly remodeled and renovated Ruth U. Fertel / Tulane Community Health Center.

    She is, as much a public health practitioner, an innovative convener, collaborator, and catalyst that creates results – not often accolades that are paired with health institutions. Consider the ReFresh Project at North Broad Street and Bienville Avenue in New Orleans.

    “Our goal with this project was to create a fresh food hub based in mid-city New Orleans with the goal of creating a healthier community. The project includes 65,000 square feet of mixed-use space, and features a Whole Foods organic market, a community farm, a center for Culinary Medicine, and a culinary work readiness and leadership program for at-risk youth -- the first of its kind in the country. It is no coincidence that that the ReFresh Project is located just blocks from the health clinic.

    “A healthy community is everybody’s responsibility,” she says. In fact, only ten percent of health is what happens in a doctor’s office, the other 90% is what happens outside the walls of a clinic.” And that, she says, is where thr health system today is lacking. “The health system has not caught up with health care” in this country, she says.

    Staying caught up with Berger Jensen may be difficult, too. Her long list of accolades includes being selected one of New Orleans’ CityBusiness “Women of the Year” this past summer, an honor highlighting professional and community achievements. Berger Jensen also has been named one of the nation’s “100 Great Disruptive Heroes” by the author of Hacking Work for her pioneering efforts to improve the health care delivery system, and subsequently featured in the follow-up book: Disrupt! Do Epic Sh*t: 25 Successful Habits for an Extremely Disruptive World.
  • Sarah Sibley '14 & Robert Wright '14

    Recent Alumni Campaign for Opposite Sides
    Robert Wright and Sarah Sibley have a lot in common, though they toiled on opposite sides of the recent U.S. Senate race between Republican Cory Gardner and Democratic incumbent Mark Udall.

    The 2014 graduates, both 19, worked long and hard on the campaigns – Wright for Gardner, Sibley for Udall – emerging a bit bruised but stronger, ready to take on new challenges. Each joined the campaign in August.

    Wright’s duties focused on voter contact, knocking on many doors, making phone calls and responding to information requests.

    “It was quite the experience,” said Wright, who’s headed to George Washington University in the fall – but first, four months in Nepal to teach English, followed by one month in India. “You definitely get used to a lot of rejection. A lot of people don’t necessarily like talking to you about politics. Some were genuinely interested in what you had to say, in different issues that came up with the campaign.

    “Other people would be horrified that you would work for a Republican candidate, swear at you, tell you to get off the porch. Others were nice about it, but still rejected you and said, ‘I’m not interested.’ You learn how to deal with all sorts of people.”

    Sibley, who enters Duke University in the fall, worked as a field organizer, recruiting volunteers “seven days a week, 12 hours a day.” She learned, “You can work much harder than you think you can. I learned how to connect with people, how to get their buy-in. I learned how difficult it can be. I interned on a couple of campaigns in the past, and learned how hard it is to get people to care about their vote.

    “I have an even better understanding of that. Many people don’t like to vote in midterm elections. We have to figure out a way to have a message that lets people understand what happens thousands of miles away in Washington, D.C., affects them.” Sibley was thrilled when called upon to introduce former President Bill Clinton at a campaign rally.

    She’s scheduled a trip to China in January, where she plans to do language immersion to learn Chinese. But her plans may change, as she’s contemplating switching to Spanish and thus another country. And in the meantime, she’s doing post-campaign work, such as emptying offices and implementing ballot cures – making flawed ballots whole so they’ll make the overall count.
    Both credit Colorado Academy for what they learned there.

    “The best thing Colorado Academy can teach you is to be confident in what you’re saying, thinking and arguing,” Sibley said. “Colorado Academy made me comfortable enough to make the leap to do something that I was scared to do. It’s been great; I have more connections than I thought I’d have. I know more than ever that this is something I want to do and something I can do.”

    Both participated in the Mock Trial program while at Colorado Academy.

    “You had to think and be articulate on your feet,” Sibley said. “People at Colorado Academy are very sociable. We learned how to be persuasive. My whole (campaign) job was trying to persuade people to do something they may not have wanted to do.”

    She plans to major in political science at Duke, but also, “I want to pair it with something more quantitative, a math or a hard science.”

    Wright said, “I think Colorado Academy does an unbelievable job teaching you a lot of skills that other schools don’t necessarily teach you: How to deal with teachers and interpersonal skills that helped me on the campaign. “Every teacher at Colorado Academy loves what they’re doing, love every day, love teaching the kids. I guess that sort of rubbed off on me.”

    He left for Nepal on Nov. 11, where he’ll work at a Buddhist school for all grades, starting with pre-K. The school is in a small town named Boudhanath, near Katmandu.

    “My family has a connection with the school,” Wright said. “We sponsor a student there. I knew I wanted to be working in that part of the world. I didn’t know exactly what country, but I knew I wanted to be in that area. I’m fascinated by the religions over there and the Eastern medicines.”

    His family has sponsored that one student for about 15 years, and he sends letters to the Wright family. “I’ll be able to meet him for the first time,” Wright said.

    He also plans to learn Nepalese, the native language.
     
  • Nehemias Luna '10

    Broadened Horizons

    As Colorado Academy prepares for the sixteenth summer for the Horizons Program on campus, one of its first students prepares to graduate from college.
    First-generation college student Nehemias Luna ’10 looks back at how Horizons helped generate an outpouring of invaluable opportunities and lifelong passions.

    If not for Horizons at Colorado Academy, Luna says he probably would have ended up attending a two-year community college and then transferring to an institution of higher education not nearly as respectable as his future alma mater, with a tall stack of student loans and far fewer opportunities to boot.

    “My parents pushed me toward Colorado Academy, knowing that the odds would be more in my favor if I enrolled there,” recalls Luna, who will be graduating—with Latin honors, he presumes—this spring with a bachelor’s degree in finance and a minor in international business from the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University.

    Prior to becoming a full-fledged CA student, he studied at Knapp Elementary—a Denver Public School with a large Hispanic population—from pre-Kindergarten through fourth grade. Luna got involved in Horizons beginning in Kindergarten, when he and 12 other children were selected to participate in the summer enrichment program designed for low-income public school students. The transition from Knapp to CA, he admits, was tough at first: “The group of kids went from kids who I could relate to and were just like me to kids who I had nothing in common with. I was pretty shy and scared about it.”

    Fortunately, there were plenty of caring and dedicated faculty members who were more than happy to guide Luna every step of the way. Once he joined the basketball and soccer teams, he began to form friendships and feel more like an integral part of CA's student body and a well-rounded individual. A singer in the choir, he benefited from the nurturing mentorship of Vocal Music Director Cindy Jordan, who truly believed in him and saw his full potential. “She made me feel comfortable, gave me confidence, and was—without a doubt—one of the most welcoming people at the school,” Luna says, noting that Jordan has since become a close friend of the family (his sister, Loida, is a member of the Class of 2016).

    Another steady source of support was found in Upper School history teacher Luis Terrazas. “He was one of the few teachers I felt like I could relate to,” Luna says. “He’s one-quarter Hispanic, which was enough to make my mom feel comfortable. He was a great person to have around.”

    Through Horizons, Luna quickly began to acquire long-term knowledge and skills while instinctively developing a profound passion for learning—and for helping those less fortunate. Years later, he would go on to secure internships with Google’s Building Opportunities for Leadership and Development (BOLD) Immersion and K-12 Education Outreach teams.

    “One of the benefits of Horizons was that I didn’t have a break from school,” Luna says. “It kept me on my toes. When I came back to school [in the fall], I hit the ground running and was more prepared to take on the next grade level because of the skills I learned that summer or by not forgetting what I learned.”

    As soon as he graduated from Horizons, he returned to the program, year after year—just as he had done all the way through eighth grade—to help educate and inspire younger students. Made possible through the Sean Smith Endowment Fund (Smith was a 25-year employee at CA and one of the founding leaders of the Horizons program), Luna worked as an intern and teaching assistant, aiding in the instruction of math, reading, and writing and furthering the same life-changing experience he had been privileged enough to receive. To this day, he still credits Smith—who served as a teacher, advisor, coach, principal, and dean—with helping him get into CA in the first place.

    Luna will be the first member of his family to earn a college degree—something he will cherish for the rest of his life. “It’s been incredible and a blessing,”he says. “I’m proud of myself because a lot of people, including myself, didn’t think this was possible. It’s surreal.” A student worker in the Global Engagement Office at Santa Clara University, Luna studied abroad in Barcelona during his junior year. He belongs to the Sigma Chi Fraternity and volunteers at local schools through the Santa Clara Community Action Program, a chartered student organization dedicated to applying activism and justice to address social issues in and around the campus community.

    With his undergraduate years coming to an end and a job search already well underway, Luna sees more education in his future. “I would love to go to grad school,” he says. “That’s definitely on my to-do list.”
  • Adrian Michael Green '05

    Alum Returns to Work at CA in New Role
    In a new position, alumnus Adrian Michael Green will serve as CA’s Director of Inclusivity, beginning this summer. Green also will be a seventh grade instructor for the Out of the Box course, as well as a seventh grade advisor. He joins CA after working in the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Just as his duties will entail at CA, he worked at CU to support underrepresented students through academic and leadership development. He is passionate about bringing diverse communities together.

    Prior to his work at CU, he served as an elementary school teacher through Teach?for America. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from CU in Business Administration with an emphasis in Information Systems, as well as a Master of Arts degree in Educational Foundations, Policy and Practice.

    Green spoke this spring at a CA Leadership event for Middle School students. He also spoke to Upper School students at CA last October about his work as an author and poet. Self- described as one of Denver’s “native sons,” Green began writing when he was exposed to talented writers at his father’s “brother jeff” cultural center in Denver, including Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, Sonia Sanchez, Langston Hughes, and other influential African-American authors. Green currently has three books in print, and he will publish a fourth this summer.
     
  • Romain Vakilitabar ‘10


    “It was thanks to several great mentors at Colorado Academy that I discovered perhaps the most important lesson in my life to this day: anything is possible if you have the courage to just do it,” says Romain Vakilitabar ‘10.
     
    Vakilitabar attended the University of Colorado - Boulder, a member of the President’s Leadership Class at CU, and while still a student launched his own business called the Fifth Season (www.fifthseasonmemories.com). He and his business partner, Jared Leventhal, capture on video cherished family stories and memories.
     
    “The idea of recording the memories of people to preserve their life stories was an idea I had for several years after my aunt died of cancer. I remember making a slideshow to commemorate her life and thinking it was a shame that our memories of her would only exist through pictures, and not through her own words. Thanks to a film-making class I took at CA, mixed with several business classes I took at CU, I realized that I could make a business of this concept that I held so closely to my heart,” he says.
     
    ”It puts a smile on my face when I hear someone call me an ‘entrepreneur’ because to me, an entrepreneur has the ability to make money and create value from nowhere and from nothing...almost like an alchemist.” Vakilitabar says starting company happened by accident.

    “I submitted a 30 page business plan with a friend involving the idea of recording and preserving memories to win a scholarship. We didn't win,” he says.  “We decided that despite losing the competition, we had a good idea and nothing to lose. Thanks to CA, the obstacles didn’t dishearten me. I grew up with and was surrounded by so many creative, motivated, and talented students at Colorado Academy, that I had the motivation and the confidence to start something of my own.”
     
    He says hopefully the company will grow. “Eventually, I would love to franchise the business so that my dreams of having the stories and legacies of people preserved is implemented on a more global scale.” And just as Vakilitabar says he earned some of his business acumen at CA, he encourages those following behind him to live by the same, “risk, resilience and reward” bywords.

    “My advice to others is to have the courage to stand up and fight a for something you believe in; fight for a cause that has meaning in your life; fight to make an idea succeed, and don't be afraid of the failures.”
  • Jordan Loyd ‘09

    For Denver-based photographer Jordan Loyd ’09, there is something he learned at CA that he uses daily. “For me, the most important lesson I took away from attending CA, which I use every single day, is how to write effectively. Not only has this helped me in school, but it has aided the functions of my business,” he says. While Loyd took photography courses at CA, it wasn’t until he got out of high school that he began to really focus on it. “I experimented and continually learned from other photographers’ work that I admired. My passion for photography comes from the ability to show people how I view the world.”
     
    Just out of college, Loyd has already made a name for himself (www.jordanloydphotography.com). He is known for his work in commercial, fine art, and editorial photography. His clients include MTV, ESPN, Beatport, Insomniac Events, Allisports, Tiësto, and many more.  Even while still a college student at the University of Denver, Loyd traveled extensively, and he shotregularly as the in-house photographer for the number-one ranked nightclub in the United States.
     
    “Over time,” he says, “I've learned that the photo shoots themselves are the easiest parts of my balancing act. Maintaining a strong social media presence, responding to emails, reaching out to prospective customers and companies, editing, keeping financial documents inline, and all those other behind-the-scenes actions take up a majority of my time. It was actually kind of funny as I would be in a college class listening to the professor talk about business concepts that I've figured out via trial and error over the past couple of years.”

    Loyd says being successful in business today requires a solid concept of networking, the ability to adapt to changing situations, and to be able to keep current with the times. He says post-college, he’ll continue to expand his business, but won’t have to worry about lengthy essays, midterms or class projects. For current students at CA, Loyd says, “Take every advantage that the school offers: the speakers, the classes, and the extracurricular opportunities - do it all at least once, and see what possibilities it opens up for you.”
  • Steele Sternberg '09

    When Steele Sternberg, ‘09 walked into his first class as a teacher, his students at The Hotchkiss School in Lakeview, Connecticut had CA history teacher Luis Terrazas to thank.
     
    Sternberg took a few side trips on his journey to his chosen career, but at every key juncture, Terrazas helped him find his way. That guidance began when Sternberg was a student at CA, intending to become an actor or a politician. Then, he took AP Government from Terrazas and studied the First Amendment. “He taught me that freedom of speech is great, but it has to be amongst an informed, educated people,” Sternberg said. “That concept was unbelievably compelling to me.”
     
    After he graduated from CA, Sternberg headed to Columbia University, a school, he says, he chose for the wrong reason (“Wow, I got into Columbia, how can I not go?”), but it turned out to be absolutely the right place for him.
     
    “Columbia made me thoughtful, reflective and engaged in contemporary issues,” Sternberg said.
     
    During the summer between his freshman and sophomore year, he pursued his interest in politics, working for Andrew Romanoff’s 2010 U.S. Senate campaign. He signed on imagining that he would be “interacting with an informed constituency, along the lines of Plato’s Republic.” In reality, he spent the summer criss-crossing Colorado, setting up events and driving through the night to make sure donor checks were deposited in a timely fashion. “I realized that politics was not my future,” Sternberg said.
     
    After his sophomore year, Sternberg spent the summer working for Breakthrough Collaborative, a national program designed to increase the educational and social opportunities for motivated, under-resourced, urban middle school students. He spent six weeks teaching English in Austin, Texas.
     
    The subject matter was not his forte, a fact, he says, his CA English teachers would confirm. He found himself consumed by his grueling schedule—designing lesson plans, creating learning projects, doing assessments, developing relationships with middle schoolers. It was, he confesses, “the worst six weeks of my life.”
     
    “I felt like I could not do it,” Sternberg said. “I was on the verge of giving up teaching.”

    Then he went to see Terrazas. His former teacher didn’t mince words. “The first thing he said to me was ‘So, you still want to teach, right?’” Sternberg said.

    If Sternberg had lost confidence in his ability to teach, Terrazas had not. He handed his former student a copy of Losing my Faculties: A Teacher’s Story, Brendan Halpin’s memoir of the frustrations and rewards of teaching. It was just the boost that Sternberg needed to continue as a teacher.
     
    During his junior year at Columbia, Sternberg won the Milch prize, which is awarded to the student who, by leadership in extracurricular and scholastic activities, has done the most to enhance the reputation of Columbia. He spent his senior year writing his thesis on theories of education and searching for the ideal teaching position. He graduated in May of 2013 with a double major in history and philosophy.
     
    Today, Sternberg has just begun a position as a teaching fellow in the Humanities and Social Sciences Department at The Hotchkiss School. He will be teaching philosophy, at the same time he works on his Master’s of Science in Education from the University of Pennsylvania. He will also be coaching cross-country and swimming.
     
    Sternberg is determined to give his students the same quality educational experiences he had at CA. “High school for me was fantastic,” he said. “I wanted to go to school every day. Being in that environment shows how wonderful a school can be when it’s working well.”
     
    And Sternberg is grateful for what he received from his mentor and supporter Luis Terrazas. “He has supreme confidence in my ability to be a great educator,” Sternberg said. “That’s as good as gold.”
     
     
  • Maggie Ruddy '00

    Maggie Ruddy Crane, ’00, was inspired to follow a career path by her mother, a veteran CA teacher, but not in the way you might imagine.
     
    “I did not want to be a teacher at all,” Crane said, “not because I didn’t admire my mother, but because I learned from watching her that the work of a teacher never ends.”
     
    So Crane went in a different direction, taking all the required courses for a pre-med major at Notre Dame University. She would very likely be a physician today, had she not had an epiphany her senior year. “I realized that I didn’t really love what I was doing, and I sure did not want to go to medical school,” Crane said.
     
    A chance college friendship led her to a post-graduate volunteer position, teaching high school English and social studies in Liptovsky Mikulas, a small town in the north central region of Slovakia. She arrived for her first year of teaching with zero experience as an educator, so she fell back on what she knew best. “I just tried to copy the way I remembered CA teachers taught me,” Crane said.
     
    In particular, Crane remembers recreating the project “Images of Greatness” she had done with Mrs. DuBois in the fifth grade. Halfway around the world from CA, her Slovakian students researched famous people and then dressed up in character to do class presentations, just like Crane had done in the Lower School at CA. The students discovered they loved learning “the CA way,” and Crane made her own personal discovery.
     
    “I fell in love with teaching,” she said. “It just felt right. It allowed me to continue to learn and be creative.”
     
    Crane returned to the United States determined to pursue a career as a teacher. She entered the Master in Education program at Harvard Graduate School of Education. She did her student teaching at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There, she matured as an educator.
     
    “I started to see how, as a teacher, you aren’t everyone’s friend,” Crane said. “Sometimes you have to be tough.”
     
    Before she even completed her graduate work in the spring of 2006, Crane was hired by the Community Charter School of Cambridge to teach seventh and eighth grade science. It was her first official job as a teacher, and it was a struggle.
     
    “You work so hard preparing because you are starting from scratch, and you have no bag of tricks,” Crane said. “So much of it blows up in your face.”
     
    Crane believes her challenging first year made her a better teacher. By 2007, she found a new home at the Boston College High, an all-boys Jesuit school. There she found a community of like-minded faculty, excellent facilities for her biology and chemistry classes, and the opportunity to pursue another passion—coaching swimming.
     
    Today, after nearly a decade of teaching, she has no regrets about the medical career she did not pursue. “There were a lot of twists and turns to get where I am,” she said. “But I really do feel like I was meant to be a teacher.”
     
    Thirteen years after graduating from CA, Crane confesses that she still has notes from some of her CA classes. Her first couple years of teaching she “often looked back to see how CA did it.”
     
    She can also reel off the names of the CA teachers she remembers. “Mrs. Kolsun Jackson, my fourth grade teacher. She was fabulous. Mr. Milavec turned me on to science. Dr. Hogan and Dr. Coleman were wonderful. Dani Meyers wasn’t afraid to make things funny in class and get us to laugh.”
     
    Crane and her mother, Lisa Ruddy, traveled together to Rwanda teach at the St. Bernadette's school. “Even though I knew what I was doing, I found myself all nervous because my mother was watching.” Ruddy said. “She has so many good ideas!”
     
    Maggie Ruddy Crane, who didn’t think she wanted to become a teacher, continues to learn—from her mother—from her students—and from Colorado Academy.
  • Shane Boris '00

    Shane Boris is producing films today because he bought a beleaguered airline worker a sandwich in 2005.
     
    After he graduated from CA in 2000, he studied religion and English at Oberlin College, without a clear career plan.
     
    “I thought that if I studied what interested me, jobs would be available, or I would create a job that made the most sense,” Boris said.

    His first stop after Oberlin was Cordova, Alaska, a small town near Prince William Sound. There, he did an internship with an environmental organization working on indigenous land rights.
     
    In 2005, he decided to start graduate school in international relations at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. When his flight out of Los Angeles International Airport was canceled, he watched as passengers berated the airline representative who had delivered the news of their disrupted travel.
     
    “I bought him a sandwich and told him that everything was going to be okay,” said Boris.
     
    The airline worker must have remembered the kind gesture, because when Boris saw his newly issued ticket, he had been upgraded to business class. Sitting in the seat behind him was a film producer headed to India to produce a narrative film.
     
    “He showed me the script for the project, and I read it on the plane,” said Boris. “We got off in Frankfurt, and I gave him my thoughts about the script. One month later, I was on the set in South India, informally walking around as a producer, learning the business.”
     
    Boris went on to finish his master’s degree, but he also started to take on advising positions for independent films. His title is often “producer” or “associate producer,” but in that capacity, he might find himself doing a range of work: researching scripts, managing staff, finding financial backing, advising during pre- and post-production and networking for distribution.
     
    In short, he can be involved in “the whole life cycle” of a film.
     
    Most recently, he served as producer on the documentary “You’re Looking at me Like I Live Here and I Don’t” which has been shown at film festivals around the world and was been picked up for broadcast by PBS.
     
    The film looks at Alzheimer’s Disease through the eyes of a woman who is living with the disease. The project began as a narrative film, but when the actor who was going to play the person with Alzheimer’s Disease became ill, a chance encounter with Lee Gorewitz, a woman living in a California residential care center, led the film in a new direction.
     
    “We realized that right in front of our nose we had an extraordinary subject for a documentary film,” said Boris. “Her charisma, her exuberance and her spirit were intact, even though her mind was not what it used to be. She is an incredible woman who has a lot to teach us.”
     
    Boris remembers CA as a school that “encouraged exploration.” In particular, he credits his history teacher, Jim Blanas, for leading him to think for himself. “High school can be a time of conformity,” Boris said. “He encouraged the opposite.”
     
    Boris continues to produce documentaries, but producing films is not his full-time job. Most of his time is spent as a strategist and advisor not only for films but also for start-up companies and non-profit organizations. Still, producing documentaries will always appeal to him for one reason.
     
    “I believe in the power of story.”
  • Dr. Tasha Eurich '98

    CA alumna Dr. Tasha Eurich ‘98, who comes from a long line of industrious and successful free-enterprisers, says entrepreneurism is in her blood. “When I was very young, my mother started the first school in the country to train and certify nannies and then sold it. Based on the success I saw her achieve, starting my own business was always in the back of my mind as a ‘someday’ goal,” she says.

    Eurich is the principal of the Eurich Group, a firm she created to help organizations improve the effectiveness of their leaders and teams. She combines her scientific knowledge of human behavior with a practical approach to solving problems.

    During her career, Eurich has served as a direct report to both CEOs and human resource executives. She also worked as an independent consultant to companies. The majority of her work has been with large, Fortune 500 organizations, recently including CH2M Hill, Xcel Energy, Western Union, Newmont Mining, CoBiz Financial, and HCA.

    Eurich’s optimistic and outgoing nature helped her launch her new firm at a time when the economy was weak. “In my judgment, 2011 was an ideal time to put my passion to help companies grow to work. As businesses large and small were recovering from budget cuts, layoffs, and low morale, their leaders and teams need support to not just rebound, but to grow their top and bottom line revenue,” she says.

    Eurich says what has made her successful in her new business venture are all things she learned at CA. “I believe that my experience at CA somehow hard-wired in me the courage to be rewarded by the challenges and the freedom that come with being in business for yourself.” After CA, Eurich earned BAs in Theater and Psychology from Middlebury College, and later earned her Ph.D. from Colorado State University. She also has served as an adjunct faculty member with Colorado State University’s Undergraduate Management and Psychology Departments, and has guest lectured at the University of Denver’s Executive MBA and Colorado State University’s Ph.D programs. “My goal is to be doing what I love, to help organizations grow, be recognized for the contribution I make to my field, and hopefully making CA proud!”
  • Brette Pond Scott '86

    As an undergraduate majoring in journalism and international relations, Brette Pond Scott ’86 looked into the future and saw herself as a globetrotting photographer and writer, perhaps working for National Geographic. But after she graduated from the University of Southern California in 1990, Pond discovered a definite shortage of jobs for aspiring photojournalists.

    So when she heard about the opportunity to work as a paraprofessional at Good Shepherd Catholic School, Pond remembered how much she enjoyed working for the Horizons program at CA and decided to give teaching a try. At Good Shepherd, she found great teaching mentors. “One of the teachers said to me ‘You’re sorta’ good at this. Why don’t you consider it?’” Pond said.

    The encouragement she received at Good Shepherd launched Pond’s career as a teacher, mentor and administrator. She returned to school, enrolling in the School of Education & Human Development at CU Denver. There she earned a Master’s Degree in Elementary Teacher Education, focusing her graduate work on curriculum and instruction.    

    Fortunate enough to keep her position in the classroom while attending classes at CU, Pond remembers having a “lab” where she could hone her skills and watch great teachers in action. It was a scrimmage of sorts that most educators are not provided the opportunity before jumping into the classroom as first year teachers. “There was trust in me and I had a safety net. I am so fortunate to have had this experience that so many beginning teachers don’t have.”

    Pond did her student teaching at Park Hill Elementary School. When her supervising teacher resigned just before the next school year began, the school’s principal called to ask if she wanted her job back—not as a student teacher, but as the regular teacher of the combined first and second grade class. “It was a dream come true,” Pond said.

    The first year of teaching is the last for many new teachers. But Pond found “great classes, great mentors, a great principal and great parents” at Park Hill. Twelve years after that first year, she happened to attend graduation at East High School and was delighted to see the first graders from her first year of teaching walk across the stage to accept their diplomas. “It was then that I knew teaching was no longer a job, but responsibility,” Pond remembers.

    Pond spent three years at Park Hill as a full-time teacher before she eventually left to work as a teacher trainer for the Learning Network. But when her former Park Hill principal called to recruit her for a position as a literacy and assessment specialist with the Denver Public Schools, Pond jumped at the chance. She went on to serve as the Principal of several Denver elementary schools before finally landing as an Instructional Superintendent with Denver Public Schools.

    Pond has particularly fond memories of two of her CA teachers—choir director Cindy Jordan and math teacher Millie Nadler “I can’t sing a note and math is not my strong suit,” Pond said, laughing. “But they had high expectations, and they supported you as an individual. They found your strengths and built on that.”

    CA teachers, she says, cultivate relationships with students. “They made personal connections with kids, in a way that you felt like they knew you, cared about you, understood you…That is what CA does so beautifully.”
     
  • Ron Adams '83

    The credit and esteem is mutual between this CA alumnus and his former teacher, but it has taken many years for each to discover how they changed the other’s life.

    “I credit him. It was my first year of teaching here. Ron Adams ’83 came to me and asked if I do would a summer trip to Europe overseas,” says CA Middle School science teacher Jim Milavec.

    “I’ve been here 30 years, and I have been taking students around the world ever since,” says Milavec, estimating his student trips to Russia, Europe, the Middle East, and Costa Rica now number around 20.

    “It was Jim Milavec who got me started on my travel kick,” says Adams. “And it stuck. It began as a passion, became a hobby, and now a profession,” he says, referring to his unique line of travel books, Via Corsa Car Lover’s Guidebooks. Published in 2010 is the Via Corsa Car Lover’s Guide to Southern Germany. That followed the Car Lover’s Guide to Arizona, and will be followed by guides to Northern Italy and Northern and Southern California. His guide to Germany landed him a segment on Jay Leno’s webcast, Jay Leno’s Garage, which feeds Leno’s passion about everything automotive.

    Adams says his fascination with Germany began with Milavec’s Middle School trip to Germany, Austria, and Yugoslavia. He had been on a CA-sponsored trip the summer before to England, but seeing how none was planned for this particular summer, Adams begged Milavec to lead one to Europe. Being a teenage boy, he wanted to see the federal motorway, the Autobahn.

    It is sometimes referred to as, “the last refuge of high speed drivers” because there is no set speed limit on the nearly 8,000 mile system, and the maximum recommended speed is just over 80 miles per hour.

    Milavec agreed to the trip, and once the students landed and piled into their rented van and Opal station wagon, they headed off to tour Europe with no tent or hotel reservations. They ventured forth on the Autobahn to cries of “faster! Faster!” from the students, who were disappointed to discover that their rented vehicles could not even reach the maximum recommended speed. The evening downpours forced the students into youth hostels and other accommodations, including castle guard houses, all of which made for a very memorable, three-week trip.

    Adams says through Middle and Upper School, he took every opportunity to travel with CA, including Interim trips and every summer through the school’s global exchange offerings. By the time he had graduated high school, he had traveled to six of the seven continents. Adams recalls trips to Baja, Guatemala and Mexico, Greece, South Africa, and China.

    Still enthralled with Germany, Adams moved there after college. His interest in cars and the Autobahn had not waned, and it was there that he landed on his idea for his Via Corsa book series. His Guide to Southern Germany invites travelers to visit famous car manufacturers, museums, special roads and famous drives, race tracks and much, much more.

    Adams’ book makes reference to Milavec in both the forward and appendix as a person to thank for his love of travel. It wasn’t until publication of the book that he reconnected with his former teacher.

    “I just wanted to thank Mr. Milavec for that trip. You know, you can go to a lot of schools for a great education, including Colorado Academy. But there are not many schools where you can travel the way I did with CA,” says Adams. “CA is doing everything a great school should be doing.”

    “Traveling provides an experience that a classroom can’t teach, and it stuck,” says Adams. “Traveling the world challenges all of us; it takes us out of our comfort zone. We are able to learn history first hand, and we learn new languages,” says Adams. “We grow as people.”

    Now living in Scottsdale, Arizona, Adams is writing and has competed in Formula auto racing. He has more ambitious goals for his books including three more titles in the works, a television program and webcast, and a website targeting people who enjoy both cars and travel. Visit his current site at www.viacorsa.com.
  • Peter King '75

     
    Peter King’s ’75 career as a drama and theater teacher started the day he was goofing around in Dick Newton’s English class at CA, talking in funny voices.
     
    “Newton said ‘Oh, Peter, have you ever thought about acting?’” King said. The next thing he knew, he was cast in a CA production of “A Thousand Clowns” playing Chuckles the Chipmunk, a “sad, lame loser of a character.” From that inauspicious beginning, King launched a career that has taken him around the country as a theater teacher, director and drama coach.
     
    When King graduated from CA, he had to choose between accepting a soccer scholarship at Colorado College and majoring in theater at Northwestern University. He chose Northwestern. By his senior year in college, his focus had turned from acting to directing, but he wasn’t ready to go to graduate school, so he returned to CA as an intern in the theater program. “Four years after I left, I was back,” King said. “It was weird and wonderful.”
     
    He stayed at CA for four years, moving from the middle school theater program to the upper school program. When his wife began graduate school in St. Louis, he accepted a position at the St. Louis Country Day School.
     
    From St. Louis, the couple moved to Boston, where King spent three years at Boston University earning his MFA in Directing. He thought his next stop might take him to New York to make his mark as a director. Instead, his wife’s career took them to Miami, Florida, where King taught at the New World School for the Arts and worked as a director in the vibrant Miami theater scene. He also taught adult acting classes and started a professional studio, coaching actors.
     
    After their first child was born, neither he nor his wife could imagine living in Miami permanently. So King moved his growing family, this time to Baltimore, Maryland, where he would ultimately find a position at The Park School.
     
    “It’s a very progressive school with tenets of strong individualism and social consciousness,” said King. “When I first got here, I kept seeing Colorado Academy.”
     
    Perhaps the similarity is no accident. The Park School was founded by Hans Froelicher, Sr. His grandson, Chuck Froelicher, attended the Park School and went on to serve as headmaster at Colorado Academy for twenty years.
     
    Today, King has taught for more than a dozen years at The Park School. He publishes regularly for the journal, Teaching Theatre. He offers master classes to other theater teachers, and he is active in the Educational Theater Association.
     
    Two years ago, his students performed “A Raisin in the Sun” with the school’s first all-African American cast in fifty years. Last year, his students performed “Clybourne Park,” a play that picks up where “A Raisin in the Sun” leaves off. His students were able to skype with Jeremy Shamos ’88, who was nominated for a Tony for his performance in “Clybourne Park” on Broadway. Shamos had been King’s student in middle school at CA.
     
    “Even then, he was a live wire, totally into it,” King said. “I had just started teaching, so I’m sure I didn’t have much to do with Jeremy’s success, but he reminded me how gratifying it’s been over the years to be able to see a student’s potential and help light the fire—and not just about theater, but about life, as well.”
     
    King remains thankful to the CA teachers who saw his potential and lit a fire. He credits Newton with teaching him that theater “can be done really well in a sane way. You don’t have to be a prima donna.”
     
    King also remembers Glee Club Director Dr. David Woods as the teacher he emulates in his classroom every day. “He connected art with a higher purpose,” King said. “It does move people, change people and change the world sometimes.”
     
    Today, King lives in a historic house on an acre of land and has two children. His life is far from the bright lights of Broadway, but he has no regrets. Every day he has the opportunity to discover a future actor, director—or teacher—who might be just goofing around in class, talking in funny voices.
     
     

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